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Android clears court review of patent claims

Android did not infringe Oracle patents, court rules, in a major blow to Oracle. Android ruling means Oracle won't collect billions of dollars in royalties from Google.

By Dan LevineReuters / May 29, 2012

In this file photo earlier this month, attendees chat at the Google IO Developers Conference in San Francisco. On Wednesday, a San Francisco federal court ruled that Google's Android operating system for smartphones did not infringe Oracle's patents.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File

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SAN FRANCISCO

Google Inc's Android mobile platform has not infringed Oracle Corp's patents, a California jury decided, putting an indefinite hold on Oracle's quest for damages in a fight between the two Silicon Valley giants over smartphone technology.

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In a case that examined whether computer language that connects programs and operating systems can be copyrighted, Oracle claimed Google's Android tramples on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language.

Google argued it did not violate Oracle's patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an "open-source" or publicly available software language.

In addition to finding for Google on patents, the jury foreman told reporters that the final vote on a key copyright issue earlier in the case had heavily favored Google.

David Sunshine, a New York-based intellectual property lawyer who advises hedge funds, said the outcome of the Google trial was humbling for Oracle, which had it won, could have gained handsome payouts given the growing market for Android devices.

"It's a huge blow," Sunshine said.

For Oracle and its aggressive CEO Larry Ellison, the trial against Google over Java was the first of several scheduled this year against large competitors. Another trial is set to begin next week between Oracle and Hewlett-Packard Co over the Itanium microprocessor.

The verdict was delivered on Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court.

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said the company would continue to defend and uphold Java's unique functionality.

"Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java," she said.

Attorneys for Oracle looked grim after the verdict, while Google lawyers smiled and shook hands. Google general counsel Kent Walker said the company felt it was important to send a message by taking the case to trial.

"We didn't want to back down when we felt the facts were on our side," Walker said in an interview with Reuters.

Although the jury found earlier that Oracle had proven copyright infringement for parts of Java, it could not unanimously agree on whether Google could fairly use that material.

Without a finding against Google on the fair use question, Oracle cannot recover damages on the bulk of its copyright claims. And U.S. District Judge William Alsup has not yet decided on several legal issues that could determine how a potential retrial on copyright would unfold, if at all.

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